Sunday, November 30, 2008

Explosive dance, Advent amusements and a big clear-out

Am still reeling from the incredible fabulousness (if that's even a word, or a phrase) of Austin's paso doble on Strictly Come Dancing last night. I was utterly and totally gripped. Until that point, I'd actually been going to vote for Lisa & Brendan (which would have been the first ever time I'd voted for Brendan as usually I can't stand the guy) - but that paso certainly changed my mind! If you missed it last night, here it is on YouTube. Ah, bliss ... Who needs central heating if Austin's around?

This morning, Lord H and I attended the Advent Service at church - I do so love all those great Advent hymns. So much better than the Christmas ones (hush my mouth). However I covered myself with glory (um, not ....) by sitting down in the pew, seeing that the Bishop of Dorking was taking the service today and saying in a stage-whisper to Lord H: "Ooh, look, it's the Bishop. We like him, don't we?" At which point the woman in front of me turned round and gave me a big smile. Yes, you guessed it - it was the Bishop's wife. Good job I didn't say anything negative then ...

Post-church, we have spent a lot of the day throwing out rubbish in our annual winter clean. Spring-cleans are so last century, dahhlings ... It's astonishing the amount of floor space we actually have here after two full car-loads to the tip. Not only that, but we've bought some storage boxes and are busy tidying up what's left as well. What heroes we are indeed. Now we just have to keep it like that. Hmm, could be a challenge.

I've added another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle and this scene is really hotting up now. I have to sort out Annyeke and Johan, not to mention Talus, and try to work out what's happening to Simon and the Mind-Executioner in the Library. And I can't forget poor Ralph, struggling away in the Lammas Lands with those pesky magic Emeralds. Who knows where it will all end indeed?... It's a mystery. As ever, the author is always the last to know anything, dammit.

Tonight, I'll be watching those Strictly Come Dancing results (ah, Austin - swoon ...) and then there's the glorious Kenneth Branagh (who can do no wrong) in the new Wallander series. So I'll be glued to that as well.

In the meantime, here's this morning's meditation poem:

Meditation 13

The bright fragility
of water

washes only
hands and feet;

leaves untouched
the private shadows

of the heart.

And, last but not least, here's this week's haiku:

The bridge links two worlds.
Counterpoint of night, the moon
ripples the water.

Today's nice things:

1. Austin's paso
2. The Advent service
3. Clearing out the rubbish
4. Hallsfoot
5. Poetry
6. Haikus
7. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - still drooling, mmmm ...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mice, a scary Christmas moment and naked calendars

Shock news of the day - we have mice!! Just what we need for the run-up to Christmas indeed. I got up relatively early this morning and staggered into the living room wearing my customary morning head - where I discovered that parts of the wrapping around my stepfather's Christmas chocolates were lying near the table. Dammit. Interestingly, the mice had carefully unwrapped the chocolate (Ferrero Rocher, if you're wondering - which I don't like but which my stepfather goes mad for ...), torn up the wrapping and then left the chocolate uneaten. Is this due to our electronic mouse deterrent, which may have driven the poor creature mad? It's a mystery ... Being from Essex, a part of me did wonder if I could rescue the wrapping and then put the chocolate back without Jim (stepfather) noticing, but even I cannot be that mean. No, really. Anyway, I've hidden away all the other consumables as much as possible, put down some poison (accompanied of course by evil laughter - well, I am a farmer's daughter so have a heart of steel where animals are concerned ...) and we'll wait and see where the bodies turn up. Mwa-aha-ha ...

Anyway, while Lord H was collecting his new car (which he loves and which I shall be introduced to tomorrow, no doubt), I drove to Aylesford Priory to spend some time with my friend Pauline. We were hoping for a nice quiet lunch and chat - but curses, foiled again! - the Priory have their Christmas Fayre today, dammit. So we were greeted by huge amounts of Christmas tack, milling families, monks desperately selling their CD (please, someone, introduce me quickly to a monastery where they haven't produced a CD and I shall be your friend for life) and a woman crooning out-of-tune carols over the tannoy non-stop. Oh what joy. Christmas? Bah! Humbug ... However, we did at least buy some fudge and have a quick lunch before decamping to the nearest hotel with a Starbucks, hurrah. Where we talked loads and put the world to rights. Bliss - and lovely to see you as ever, Pauline.

Tonight, I shall be surgically attached to the rollercoaster ride of Strictly Come Dancing and then the blessed Boris (may his hair flourish always) is doing some historical programme (which I can't be arsed to get up and check the details of right now) which we're also planning to see. Boris is always worth watching, in my opinion.

And here's today's meditation piece:

Meditation 12

In the heat,
dust, crowd of people,

questions, half-answers,
lies and the constant need

for a price,
the truth leaps

from his tongue
as if it’s been waiting there

for a lifetime
and this is his only chance

to speak it.
The air hangs silent,

waits for the next move.

Oh, and we've bought the marvellous naked Royal Opera House calendar which you can find information about here, although the actual calendar is on sale at the Opera House shop. Proceeds go to Macmillan Cancer Support so it's all in a good cause, so buy early buy often is what I say. And lovely to see a naked calendar suitable for everyone indeed. Bliss!

Today's nice things:

1. Seeing Pauline
2. TV
3. Poetry
4. Naked calendars.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - thankfully not baring all for the nation ...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Books, Thorn and blog refusals

A lovely surprise today when I realised that my brother-in-law has read Thorn in the Flesh, liked it and put a review up on his blog on 26 November - gosh, thank you, Peter. I'm torn between being delighted that you enjoyed it and horrified that you now actually know what your brother's wife is really like. Oh Lordy, I may have to come to our Christmas get-together in disguise ... Still, it could have been worse - at least you didn't read any of the gay ones (hide them at once, Sue - for our own peace of mind, our menfolk must remain innocent! Though I fear it is already too late for Lord H ...).

This morning I have spent a pleasant couple of hours shopping in and around Godalming. I managed to get something suitable for the stepfather (hurrah!), and bought a couple of pairs of cords for myself as I really do need something thicker for winter birdwatching purposes. Lord H does insist on beating his way through thorn-bushes to get to the prize and my legs simply can't take the danger any more ... I also had a couple of good moments when (a) the traffic light that is always, always against me today wasn't so I swanned past a great line of traffic turning right in order to turn left whilst wearing a big grin and shouting "yes!" (as you can see, I am always gracious in victory ...); and (b) the petrol attendant was unusually jolly and polite, which cheered me greatly.

Back home, I have got to grips (of sorts) with Hallsfoot's Battle once more and now have just over 61,000 words to my name. Not sure what Johan and Annyeke are going to do about the latest crisis, but I trust they will think of something. Or at least Annyeke will - she's a kick-ass Gathandrian woman if ever I wrote one.

I've also, and strangely, impressed myself by not immediately saying yes to a very lovely new author who has very kindly asked if this blog can be one of the stops on her forthcoming blog tour. By all that's holy in the writing arena, this is a wonderful thing to be asked and every other writer in the known world would be jumping at the chance. But - and it's a big but (as it were!) - it just makes me feel like the "bridesmaid rather than the bride" again. And there's enough people in the world who are happy to put me on the sidelines without me bringing it on myself deliberately. (The same is surely true for us all indeed ...) I also do have issues with the particular publisher concerned (not the author in question's fault, I hasten to add - but simply my own rejection and resentment, plus my dislike of the way I was dealt with at the time). Pre-yesterday, I would have said yes, if only for the hazy sense of my own career progression. Such as it was. Today I have said no, if only for my own mental health. And there's a liberation in that somewhere too, I think.

Which has led on to another unexpected decision: I have for the first time in over a year, maybe more, actually submitted some of my poetry to a magazine. Perhaps shedding all these things I've been carrying on my shoulders for what seems like ages (friends I no longer see nor want to, church, writing commitments etc) has left me more able to do things that interest me or seem important? It does feel like a step back to a more suitable path - and there's a kind of liberation in that too, I think.

I have finished Germaine Greer's biography, "Shakespeare's Wife". A very interesting insight into the life and times of the period with some revelatory insights into the possible relationship between Shakespeare and Ann Hathaway. But I did feel there were simply too many facts, which tended to make Ann herself disappear somewhat. Greer obviously knows her stuff and she is of course a wonderful writer - but I think it needed a bit of cutting.

I've also read our next University book group choice - Jean-Dominique Bauby's "The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly". All very worthy indeed in terms of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity - but I did think Bauby himself was hugely irritating and could be quite bitchy about people who were, after all, only trying to help. He was also very self-obsessed - and yes I do know that's what illness (especially such an illness!) does to one, but it doesn't make it pleasant. And if anyone's going to be self-obsessed around here, it's going to be me ... I also suspect that I wouldn't have much liked the man when he was well, so I fail to see why I should modify that view because of the tragedy he suffered through. It didn't feel life-affirming anyway.

Tonight, I have a plethora of TV to watch, though I must also do some dusting before the dust-police come round. Ooh, and I forgot to say (mea culpa!) - Lord H has bought a new car (well, new to him) and we should be collecting it tomorrow. How very exciting it all is - just in time for our upcoming holiday!

And here's today's meditation poem:

Meditation 11

My mind reverberates
with acacia boxes, gold,

incense rising,
the morning greeting

of the priests,

bread, fish,
water, the overwhelming needs

of people
and behind them all

the still and distant mountain.

Today's nice things:

1. Peter's response to Thorn
2. Shopping
3. Beating a traffic light
4. Pleasant petrol attendants
5. Writing more of Hallsfoot
6. Saying no
7. Books
8. A new car for Lord H
9. Poetry
10. Poetry submissions.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - making decisions for itself ...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Several decisions and a landmark reached

I have finally made my mind up and left the WriteWords site today. I was actually intending to cancel my account in March, but I logged in this morning and for the first time in ages had a look round - and then thought: no, enough is enough. It's time to leave on the grounds that it's all very worthy, I'm sure, but it no longer suits the amateur writer that I am. So that's done. And it feels both liberating and right - two states of mind not at all to be sniffed at, rare as they are in this oh-so-busy world. I wish them all the best in the future, naturally enough, but it's not for me.

In the meantime, here's today's meditation poem:

Meditation 10

The light
wipes out the fact of things

makes what is there
seem as if it is not

so that already
when I search for you

I know
you will be gone.

I've also made several unexpected submissions - something I've not done for a while. These include a short story to Espresso Fiction, another to First Edition Publishing, and four pieces of flash fiction to the University of Chester Flash Magazine. So I feel very decisive and will expect a series of the usual rejections any day now ... But, hell, at least I'm keeping my hand in, eh.

At the same time, another exciting landmark has been reached. I am now happily at just over 60,000 words in Hallsfoot's Battle, which is where I wanted to be by the end of November, hurrah! Hang up the bunting and crack open the champagne, people! It's a Celebration Day. And so beautifully timed with Thanksgiving too (I hope my US readers are having a wonderful day also ...). And, plot-wise, I've discovered something strange about Talus, the young boy who lives with Annyeke - it's an odd gift but I'm hoping it will come in useful later on in the battle (which surely has actually to start sometime now I'm halfway through the novel, ho ho ...). I just don't know how yet.

Tonight, I'm out in London seeing Jane W, so am looking forward to curry and chat. Though first I have to run the gauntlet of renewing my railcard at Godalming Station (never an easy task, it seems). Hmm, maybe I'd best set out soon, even though there's still two-and-a-half hours before the train departs? You never know how long it will take ...

Today's nice things:

1. Leaving WW
2. Poetry
3. Submitting stories
4. Reaching the Big 6-0 in Hallsfoot.
5. Seeing Jane W.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - unusually decisive for a Thursday ...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Church solutions and a spot of feminist pizzazz

Great fun last night when a fly unexpectedly surfaced in the flat and Lord H attempted to tackle it with a spanner. Which was all he had in his hand at the time (well, the saga of the unforthcoming radiators continues apace …). Seemed a little overkill to me but hey we got the beast in the end, aha. That showed it.

Anyway, talking of peace and love to all living things (ho ho), here’s this morning’s meditation poem:

Meditation 9

Carry nothing with you
when you go.

Let the air drift round you

and do not take
what you cannot restore.

When you return
shake free

even the dust
that clogs your feet

and breathe.

At work, I am now neck-deep (possibly higher) in the rejigging of the personal tutors’ handbook. After much binding in the marsh (as they say), I believe we have a compromise solution, Carruthers. Which is not the wholesale changes we originally planned, alas, but is at least reasonably doable. I hope.

Carol, Chaplaincy Ruth and I had a great discussion about church too – very interesting indeed. My theory is they should scrap the whole system and start it again – it’s just too dehumanising. But maybe we’ll just settle for getting rid of all male leadership in the church and letting the women sort it out instead. Much the best way and will solve all the current problems, I’m sure …

Suitably armed with feminist pizzazz, I decided to pop into town at lunchtime and stock up on things Godalming just doesn’t sell. Thank goodness I wrapped up warm for the journey (tee-shirt, shirt, jumper, coat, plus hat, gloves, scarf. I left the snow-boots at home …). I even managed to be brave enough to take the shortcut I never use as I hate change and getting lost – huge huzzahs to me indeed. Now I’ve fixed it in my brain at last (after four years of being here …) I reckon I’ll use it again.

Meanwhile – double hurrahs! – I can borrow the little portable heater from work which sits on my desk in order to keep warm at home too. Thank you, David & Ruth – hugely appreciated! Once we know when exactly they’ll be giving us the new system, Lord H and I can decide whether we should buy a second portable heater or not – but for now this is a much-appreciated temporary solution.

Tonight, I’m looking forward to It Takes Two and the second episode of The Devil’s Whore. Hope it’s as cracking as the first. I can’t wait.

I’ve finished Michael Connelly’s latest Bosch novel, The Overlook. Fabulous stuff – I was totally gripped throughout. And Bosch of course is so marvellous. You can’t go wrong with him and this is one of the best. Great characters and a stunning and very clever plot. Treat yourself and buy it.

Finally, is it me or does today feel like a totally jagged day?? I was on edge all the way through and my communication skills (if any) were shot to pieces. I think I have people-overload - too much inclusion is bad for my soul, I feel ...

Today’s nice things:

1. Killing flies with spanners
2. Poetry
3. The gift of a temporary heater – thank you!
4. Geographical courage
5. TV
6. Books.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - personable enough if not asked to a party ...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Writers, physio and visiting

Am feeling strangely inspired (it can’t last, obviously …) this week, so I actually wrote my first ever horror short story yesterday. Well, subtle horror, but horror nonetheless. No idea what I’m going to do with it, but hey at least it’s there. Lurking. And, talking of writing, here’s this morning’s bible poem:

Meditation 8

Fasten my robe
with pomegranates,
blue, purple, red.


Place next to them
the golden bells
that sing of heaven.


So let me taste and hear
the coming salvation.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the hot water is working again and Lord H and I both managed baths (hurrah!) though the heating is rather dodgy. Taking Andrea’s advice, we tried to locate the electrical immersion heater switch just in case the water goes off again. We eventually found it by means of a strong torch and lots of burrowing. However, when we turned it on, there was an ominous spark or two from the end of the wire nearest the heater so we swiftly turned it off. Hmm, sparks aren’t a good sign, I think … If the boiler breaks down again and we need hot water before the new system is installed, best stick to the kettles. And I suspect getting an electrician in and maybe a spot of serious rewiring might well be on next year’s agenda.

At work, I’ve got the University Writers’ Group at lunchtime today, so have taken two calming pills in order to prepare. I’m not a natural leader, as you can no doubt tell. Anyway, I’ve got a writing game they can do, so I hope that proves inspirational for them. It will also be fun looking at what manuscripts they might have brought in. UPDATE: it was great. Went really well and we looked at a lot of excellent manuscripts, plus played a speedy writing game which will double up as homework. Fabulous! Not only that but Mick has sold yet another of his short stories inspired by the homework I set (that makes three then!) to a literary magazine, so he's obviously on a major roll. Well done, Mick - very well deserved!

This afternoon, we’re having a brainstorming meeting about the changes to the personal tutors’ handbook – it’s a huge job which right now feels horrendously overwhelming (if worthwhile), but it would be great to get some of it started before the end of the year. I think that will make us all feel more positive about it. I hope.

Straight after that, I had to rush off to my physio appointment. After the weekend’s slight setback, my shoulder and arm now feel more normal than they’ve done for a while, so I’m hoping I’m on the upward slope. To somewhere. On the way home, I’ll pop in to see Gladys and restock that birdseed of hers. In this weather, the birds will definitely need it!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that on 20 November, it was the six-month anniversary of The Gifting being out with publishers via the agent without any response. Happy anniversary to Simon and Co then – I didn’t want you to disappear entirely from the systems of the powers that be without some sort of recognition. Hey ho.

Today’s nice things:

1. Writing my first horror story (well, yesterday, really)
2. Poetry
3. Writers’ Group
4. Mick's good news!
5. Physio.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - occasionally proves inspirational ...

Monday, November 24, 2008

In the bleak midwinter ...

Still chilly round these parts, Carruthers, as the boiler has decided to give up the ghost entirely. Please send blankets and soup – we may not last long otherwise … Last night we went to sleep with the help of two hot water-bottles, the electric heater, extra blankets and a dressing-gown. Just like the war years. So I’m told. Not only that but one of the smoke alarms chose 3am to start its intermittent beeping as a low battery alert. Quite addictive after a while. However neither of us could stomach the thought of actually getting out of bed to investigate, so we just grinned and bore it. The bulldog spirit remains undaunted, you know. Bizarrely, this morning the beeping has stopped so we’re still unsure which alarm needs feeding, dammit.

This morning’s attempt at washing was quite fun too – lots of use of the kettle and hot water on the stove again. It’s just a question of logistics really. Thankfully, Lord H managed to get hold of the gas man first thing, so he’s apparently turning up sometime before 1pm. We live in hope. Lord H is nobly taking the first watch and if the guy doesn’t turn up I shall take the second. If we’re able to arrange it. If he doesn’t turn up then, we will have to kidnap him and hold him to ransom until our heating problems are solved. Well, at least that will give the Surrey Advertiser something exciting to report next week. Meanwhile at work, I have kept my personal heater on for a glorious length of time and I am now almost thawed out, hurrah. It makes coming into the office so worthwhile. UPDATE: the gas man arrived and mended the boiler, hurrah! However, it can only be temporary and it's not perfect as the heating is still very dodgy - it’s such an old system, so it looks like this winter’s big expense is set to be a new boiler and (gosh!!) thermostats. In every room too apparently. Goodness me, how very modern – the system we currently have is 25 years old and doesn’t have any thermostats. It’s either on, or off. Anyway, the gas man is coming round to talk about the new boiler in a week’s time and we’re hugely excited about the prospect of being reliably warm.

Sadly though, my reflexology appointment for today has been cancelled as poor Emily is sick. What a month for illness it’s proving to be. I hope she’s better soon anyway, and I shall look forward to next week’s appointment instead. The good thing about having an unexpectedly free lunch hour is I can now work through it in order to make up the time I’ll be out for tomorrow’s physio appointment. Are you keeping up at the back?? At least my time juggling skills continue to improve.

And today’s odd office news is that an origami nun has been left in the chaplaincy. Last week it was a balloon devil, so at least this is a step in the right direction in the holiness stakes. So the plot thickens and we are taking bets on what might be left there next … Could the bishop be behind it all, we wonder? Meanwhile this week’s heroes are Chaplaincy Ruth’s vicar, the Origami nun and Gordon Ramsay – so surely something for everyone in there …

Tonight, I’m facing a mammoth shop at Mr Tesco’s. I’m trying to stock up on Christmas stuff so I feel I’m going to be there for hours and hours, just begging to be allowed to escape. Groan. Luckily, I’ve remembered to set the video for It Takes Two, so I can collapse in front of the blessed Claudia later. I am still in shock over the departure of the lovely Jodie from Strictly Come Dancing after all. Who am I going to vote for now?... UPDATE: The journey home was fun too. The police had closed the road leading to home so I panicked and called Lord H to ask him what the alternative routes were - my brain had shut down by then and I couldn't connect all the places I knew to anywhere near where I needed to be. Luckily Lord H is a whizz at local geography so I came the alternative way but the other end of the road was shut also, dammit! In the end, I pleaded with a sympathetic policewoman and she kindly let me go home. Phew!

Today’s nice things:

1. Hot water bottles
2. Electric heaters
3. Origami nuns
4. This week’s heroes
5. The possibility of a new boiler system
6. Kind policewomen
7. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - never ask it for directions ...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Heat, Hallsfoot and a touch of poetry

Typical. The ruddy boiler waits till the coldest day of the ruddy year and then decides it's not working. Dammit. Ruddy cold in these parts therefore, Carruthers. Though it would, I think, be better if the boiler didn't on occasions decide that it could light up and give us a little lukewarm heat and water as we rush to make the most of its generosity. Which unfortunately doesn't last long, I am typing this in fingerless gloves and a scarf. Alongside my other customary fashion items, naturally.

Anyway, it meant that this morning's bath was courtesy of two large pans of boiling water from the stove plus the trusty kettle. Takes me right back to my childhood holidays oop north with Grandma, you know. Except at least our toilet here is inside. Though, to be fair, Grandma also had an inside toilet (she was the first person on the street to have one, don't you know!) - but that was just used for special guests. Which didn't include family. At night, we had potties ... Thank goodness we mainly only visited in the summer is what I say. They make 'em tough oop north.

So, all this does add urgency to our growing desire for a new boiler - though I fear we will have to resort to battling with the gas man in order to get him to mend this one first. I foresee a week of basin washes ahead. And lots of deodorant use ...

In the midst of all that, I've managed to add 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle. Which brings me to just over 59,000 words in total. It's winter in Gathandria too, funnily enough. My descriptions of the cold weather Annyeke has to endure will be all the more heartfelt now - so at least there's a silver lining somewhere, I suppose.

I've finished Michele Giuttari's crime novel, A Florentine Death. Hmm, well. It's okay, but I feel he should have stuck to the police work. I suspect he's better at detection than he is at writing. Don't get me wrong - it's not that it's bad, though the start is hugely clunky and he wins the Most Boring Detective's Wife Award (does that wretched woman have no faults??? Really, someone should strangle her in the next in the series ...) hands down. It's just that it's all very obvious and faintly wearisome and just like a hundred other crime novels on the market right now. It adds nothing at all to the literary crime world. The ending was also tied up way too neatly and riddled with coincidences that hadn't been thought through very well, to my mind. That said, all those victims deserved to die and I didn't feel badly about any one of them. The murderer was perfectly justified really. Read it if nothing's on TV or you've got nothing better in the house, but I won't be looking for his next one.

Today's bible poem:

Meditation 7

This ancestral breastplate
deadens my skin.
I am trapped

by chains of gold
and the names of men
I do not know.

When you free me
from the mountain
of my past

give me a task
more suited to my flesh
this time.

And we mustn't forget this week's haiku either:

I flex my shoulders
to carry the day's burden.
The dark sky bears down.

Today's nice things:

1. Kettle water
2. Doing more of Hallsfoot
3. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - wrapping up warm for winter ...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Birds galore and a farewell dance

Lord H and I have spent a glorious day exploring the walks of Pulborough and also visiting Pulborough Brooks. We both managed to hold up under our various infirmities - me and my shoulder, and poor Lord H and his hand which he unfortunately gashed whilst washing up at work yesterday. It's a nasty wound for sure, though not very deep. Luckily we've got enough dressings and bandages to last till Monday when I can restock. Lordy, but we're lucky to be still walking, you know. Mind you, we had a bit of technical difficulty with Lord H's muffler - every time he lifted his binoculars to his eyes, he caught the scarf as well so ended up just staring at darkness. Ah, the trials and tribulations of being a birdwatcher are many and varied indeed. Once I'd stopped laughing, I did help him tuck it inside the fleece which meant it was out of harm's way - thus gaining valuable Wife Points which I will probably need to cash in later.

Anyway, the bird life was grand. New bird spotted today (I think) was a reed bunting. And we also managed water pipits, goldcrests, goldfinches, coal tits, a marsh tit, great spotted woodpeckers and a green woodpecker, hurrah! The Pulborough Brooks cafe also did us proud with a much needed toasted cheese sandwich and a mug of coffee halfway through the day. Bliss. Well, what with the weather, we certainly needed warming up - and I say that as someone who was wearing at least 4 layers of garments and looked like a Michelin Man.

Tonight, I will be glued to Strictly Come Dancing - and will be sure to sob hopelessly at the lovely John Sergeant's last dance, whilst booing madly at the judges and the wretched James Jordan (AKA Mr Sore Loser), should he dare to appear ... And there's also the glorious Outnumbered on so essential family lunacy at the end of the day. Just what we all need for sure. Ooh and I see they're repeating the utterly wonderful first episode of The Devil's Whore too, so well done them - and if you missed it last week, don't forget to watch it - it's grand.

Meanwhile, this morning's bible reading was a peculiar mix of the priestly garments and the calming of the storm. Here's my take on it:

Meditation 6

I carry the sons of God
carved upon my shoulder.

A memento. A prayer.

Remember me
when the dark storms come.

Today's nice things:

1. Birdwatching
2. A hot lunch
3. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - keeping you warm through the winter

Friday, November 21, 2008

Golf, Hallsfoot and the slippery slope

Have played my first round of golf with Marian since my shoulder disaster (I think I must now always hear that word in my head a la Craig Revel Horwood - disarrrster, dahlings, disarrrster ...) and it hasn't really gone too badly. Well, apart from the score of course. Neither of us were playing at our best but, hey, at least we got round relatively intact. I have to admit that my shoulder was aching a little before we started, but I took it as gently as possible and halfway through it actually appeared to be more mobile. Mind you, it's back to the same ache level now, so I'm not sure what that signifies. Best not lift any heavy loads this weekend then ...

I've also managed to nip to the shop and have succumbed to the blandishments of sin (oo-err, missus) by buying three of the Godalming Lottery tickets. This is a first for me as I've never bought any of the National Lottery tickets on the grounds that it's too much money and the thought terrifies me - but as the top prize for the Godalming Lottery is only £500, that's nearer to what I feel able to handle. Not sure how Lord H will react to such blatant wrongdoing though (gambling - it's the devil's game, you know), so I have placed the tickets (lovely shade of navy blue, I must say) in the middle of the dining room table and will await comments later. Hey, at least I'm admitting it. And I'm no longer a Lottery Virgin, hurrah.

Meanwhile, I've focused on the First Elder's scene in Hallsfoot's Battle and have squeezed out another 1000 words, thus bringing me to the total of 58,000. Only 2000 more words to the big 6-0! Well, gosh. I think I'm going to go back to Annyeke and Johan now and see how they're getting on. Not well, I fear ... And what is that dang snow-raven up to? Lord alone knows.

Tonight is cleaning night, though I doubt we'll do much as we cleaned like crazed people last week - enough to last a month at least. And I'm sure there's enough TV to keep us entertained for a while.

And today's bible reading was full of instructions about the lamp and the priesthood, which made me think of this:

Meditation 5

The slight swish
of the priests’ cloaks
as they pass

carrying the light
that shadows
the lines and planes

of the face.
Let the lamp burn,
transfigure the night.

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. The Elder's scene in Hallsfoot
3. Buying my first Lottery ticket
4. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - treading the road to perdition, oh yes ...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tea, physio and Christmas comes early

I must say that I thought last night's first episode of "The Devil's Whore" was a real class act - utterly gripping, layered, human and deep. Which is saying something indeed for the usual run of television these days. If you didn't manage to catch it, get yourself in front of the TV next Wednesday night at 9pm and enjoy. Well, that is, unless they change the schedules of course. If the next three episodes maintain the standards of this first one (even though Lord H would have preferred more on the battles, naturally ...), then I think we may have this year's drama winner on our hands.

It also struck me that, as a refreshing change from our celebrity and appearance-obsessed society, it was lovely to see that the most wisdom, dignity and simple humanity came from the plain-looking folk whom everyone mocked (aka the Puritans and Levellers), rather than the posh, pretty folk everyone was bowing to (aka the Royals, the gentry and their ilk). A lesson surely also to be learnt in the recent Strictly debacle, if I'm not much mistaken ...

Anyway, to today. I've spent a lovely morning having tea and chat with Jane H (hello, Jane! And I'm sorry I'm flummoxed still about that mystery bird ... Shame on me). We have now set the world to rights, and a damn good job we've made of it too. And I've also managed to add another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle, bringing me to c57,000, hurrah. Much to my surprise, the new section with the snow-raven went very smoothly (I usually struggle like crazy with that bird's damn speech patterns) and at the end he took a decision which totally shocked the mind-executioner, Simon and ... um ... me. But it works, so I'll keep it in. That'll certainly give the Elders something else to worry about anyway. And me, of course.

This afternoon, I've had my seventh physio session. I still have some residual stiffness in the neck, but with her agreement I'm going to play some gentle golf tomorrow and see how it goes. I have strict instructions not to overdo it though, so I will try to keep to that. It's tricky when you're as damn obsessive as I am however (I've started so I'll finish, even if it kills me ...). I will have to try to pretend to be normal. Hmm, could be a challenge.

In the meantime, I've struggled with the peculiarities and strange connections of today's bible readings and have produced these small thoughts on it:

Meditation 4

It seems a lot of fuss
about curtains.

Anyone would think
the only one hiding his light
was God.

Tonight, Lord H and I are at the theatre to see The Holly and the Ivy, so an early start to the Christmas season. Ho ho. I am a bit worried by the fact that it's supposed to focus on a "lovable vicar". I've never actually met one of those: 99% of the vicars I've known aren't at all lovable. Crazed, focused, driven, visionary and committed to the cause, yes. Lovable, never. I fear lovable vicars only exist in make-believe. The other 1% are astonishingly close to God, but believe me that can seem a pretty uncomfortable, as well as inspirational, place to be.

Today's nice things:

1. Seeing Jane H
2. Writing more of Hallsfoot
3. Poetry
4. Theatre.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - not very lovable but surprisingly humane

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The end of the minuting tunnel and shock dance news

Ye gods and little fishes, I’ve actually managed to get both drafts of the minutes out which were cluttering up my desk earlier in the week. Double hurrahs and put out the bunting. Joy abounds indeed. Lucky Joy. However, it’s rather shortlived as I’m now faced with a massive annual reporting project. Dammit. Ah well, best see if I can make sense of it one way or the other and maybe it’ll all become clear by the end of the day. Hey ho. Don’t wait up.

In the meantime, I am attempting to sort out my annual holiday allowance. I have 11 days left which I have to take before the end of March and I’m only allowed to take 5 over in any one year. Which leaves 6 days (which for me is basically two weeks) to take before Spring comes upon us. And that doesn’t count my December holiday as I’ve already factored that in. It’s always surprisingly difficult to get a week where (a) there are no meetings booked – as we usually book for the whole academic year where we can; and (b) which Lord H can also do. I think I’m left with 3 one-week options, two of which might prove tricky for Lord H. We’ll have to see. Beyond that, it looks like I’ll just have to use the odd day here and there and hope for the best.

Mind you, the HUGE shock of the day is the fact that John Sergeant has resigned from Strictly Come Dancing. Such a shame and I’m really sorry to see him go. To my mind, it’s a public entertainment programme, and if the public wants him in, then he should stay in. The judges have been way too bullying this year and I’m sorry they’ve got their own way. They don’t deserve it. And it throws the rules of the game up in the air in terms of future series for sure. Dear me, I feel a letter to my MP coming on, you know. Somebody pass me the ink … UPDATE: I'm still sad about it though I feel he's gone with dignity. I'm really annoyed though at James Jordan (who didn't even have the grace to offer support or be nice, to my mind, and was supremely selfish, to boot) and the quick backtracking of the judges - no honesty there then.

Managed a pleasant walk around campus at lunchtime – it seems ages since I’ve had the chance to do that. Plus I popped into the gallery and was much soothed by the pictures there. And the weather’s okay at the moment too, which is a bonus. The UK is apparently expecting snowstorms over the weekend. Curses. I hate snow. Mind you, it may be that the storms don’t reach the south, which will be grand. But already I can feel the cold air seeping in. Time for those fingerless gloves, Carruthers …

Tonight, I’m planning another slump in front of the TV, and am especially looking forward to the new Civil War drama series, The Devil’s Whore. Wonderful title. I’m a sucker for anything involving the great Oliver Cromwell so I hope they play him well. I shall have to write a letter of complaint otherwise. Another one.

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting both minute sets done
2. The annual holiday plethora
3. Lunchtime walks
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - marching to a different beat

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Poems, physio and coping with the gloom

I don’t think I remembered anything about yesterday’s Bible readings – it was as if any sense had been sucked from my head by a mental hoover. A common occurrence really. Which caused me to write this:

Meditation 2

Black marks on snow
signify nothing; the electrical
link from the word
to the brain

is missing today. Tell me:
when does meaning start?

And they say Bible reading does you good. Well, maybe – and only if you can remember it for more than 30 seconds afterwards. Ah well. Negative spiritual points again, Carruthers. Heck, I’ll add them to my total.

Meanwhile at work I am still struggling away with those pesky minutes. Twice over, dammit. I suspect I am typing the same things over and over again with no real resolution being in sight. Hmm, much like writing a novel then, but without the necessary tension.

Due to this afternoon’s physio appointment, I worked through lunch (drowning in minutes) and attempted to maintain a cheery demeanour. Ho ho. I think I needed my appointment as my neck is certainly stiffer today. I’m hoping it doesn’t do my shoulder in again. My, that would be fun.

Afterwards, I whizzed back to the office to add a little more to those dang minutes, but mainly (I’m not that noble, obviously …) as the English Department is hosting a reading by the poet Fiona Sampson at 6pm. It should be good – but I must admit I read the reviews of her latest work, Common Prayer, just now and didn’t understand a word of them. I hope it’s not too intellectually terrifying. I don’t respond well to intellectual poetry – I dinna really understand it, cap’n … I also hope I can contain my usual literary jealousy and avoid tearing the poor innocent woman limb from limb for being a successful and established writer. Best plaster on that plastic smile and think holy thoughts then. Not something that comes naturally, I can tell you. Hey ho, soon home, I hope … UPDATE: Fiona was lovely and it was a very successful event, so well done to the English Department for arranging it, hurrah! I particularly liked the (pretentiousness alert!) sense of light and space in her work, so ended up buying two of her books, which she kindly signed for me. Mind you, I had to rush home and look up what the heck "liminal spaces" were, as there was a lot of discussion about those in the question-time afterwards and I was completely and utterly bamboozled, my dears (though I did keep nodding wisely so I didn't look like a complete buffoon, as you do). My vocabulary is rapidly diminishing as age sets in, you know. Anyway they're spaces at boundaries or thresholds, apparently, so that kind of makes sense. To those of us, like me, who left our degree years behind a long, long time ago, that's "edgy". I can see I'll have to read up on current literary theory the next time I go, in case someone asks me to explain something (God forbid!) ...

In the meantime, I did at least remember something from today’s Bible reading:

Meditation 3

Trap the waiting air
in acacia wood.
Seal it up
with bronze

and carry it with you
a portable shining altar
for your heart.

I’ve finished Early Graves, the latest of Joseph Hansen’s Brandstetter novels. Can’t remember reading this one before – and it’s as utterly gripping as the rest of the series. And, hey, it looks as if Dave and Cecil might just get back together again. Well, that’s a relief. I, for one, was worried … I also think it’s the least clichéd literary handling of the AIDS crisis that I’ve ever read. Hansen focuses mainly on the effects of the illness on others and is very subtle about it too. And he doesn’t do it to the detriment of plot or character – it’s simply a part of the whole. So very refreshing indeed – not like most other gay novelists I’ve read, who tend to shove AIDS descriptions and politics down one’s throat for no apparent novelistic purpose except to beat their own drum. Sorry, I know it’s a terrible disease and society desperately needs a cure, but it’s true. Sermonising, however worthy or well-intended, doesn’t have a place in fiction.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Physio
3. The anticipation of home
4. Books.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - guaranteed no complicated words!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday gloom and the book group

Am utterly suffused by Monday gloom today, groan. Maybe it’s the time of year. Or (more likely) probably just me. Double groaning. Am so bad today in fact that I am barely able to communicate with the outside world at all and have taken to opening my eyes wide and sighing as a means of conveying the angst. Words being a concept entirely beyond me at the moment. Somebody pass me the smelling salts. The Quiet Life pills and the Rescue Remedy just ain’t working, dammit.

Anyway, I have struggled through the working day by clamping firmly down on the need to run screaming through the campus and by focusing on the shadowy complexities of last week’s minutes instead. Which are many and varied. Triple sigh.

And I’d only just managed to work out some headings for that particular delight (working out the headings of a set of minutes gives me a false illusion of control, and really I’d be nothing without my false illusions …) when I had to go and minute the monthly steering group meeting as well. At least that’s more familiar territory and I know roughly what might happen. Less to write down too, thank goodness. But I really don’t like having two sets of minutes to deal with – it feels as if they’re weighing down my head and I’ll never be able to see over the top of them.

In the meantime, Ruth has very kindly put together my new document holder for me, which means I don’t have to balance my old one on top of two reams of paper. Mind you, it took a lot of brute force and cursing, and we quickly abandoned the instructions. Made no sense to anyone. Anyway, I’ve tightened up the hinges and it’s in the right position now. So hopefully my neck/shoulder problems will be better. Hey, we live in hope.

Mind you, I’ve managed to sneak in a Starbucks decaff cappuccino special and that has been total bliss. I think it’s something to do with the foam. It’s the only thing getting me through the day, slowly slowly …

Tonight, it’s the University book group and we’re looking at Per Petterson’s wonderful novel, Out Stealing Horses. My favourite of the group choices so far, so I’m looking forward to seeing what other people think. And who knows – by then I may even have worked out how to communicate with other human beings again. Hmm, don’t wait up is my advice.

Once home, I’m planning to slump in front of the TV, though I fear there will be some ironing to do. Then again, when is there not?

Today’s nice things:

1. Illusions of control
2. Starbucks coffee
3. The book group
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - battling through the day ...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Golf, poetry and downright pizzazz

I'm not really sure I was fully in the mood for last night's concert, though I did think that the choir sang magnificently. Suffice it to say that Belshazzar's Feast isn't a piece I'd rush to turn the radio on for, but I have to admit it was a bold choice beautifully conveyed. Oh, and in case anyone's asking, I do think Delius is dull. Sorry, but that's just how I find him. If only A Walk to the Paradise Gardens could be remixed as a Jog to the Park, and I might be a tad less bored by it. Just a thought ...

Mind you, I did write a poem entirely based on a brief conversation between Lord H and myself while the applause was continuing, so the concert did have unexpected bonuses. It's still making us chuckle:

The varieties of men

The conductor turns
to take a bow.

"A wonderful homage
to the benefits

of Grecian 2000,"
you whisper.

"At least he has hair enough
for the attempt," say I.

"Ah, Death before Dishonour,"
you reply.

Anyway, this morning, Lord H and I have hit our way through a bucket or two of balls at the golf range, as per the Physio's instructions. And my shoulder is doing okay so far, I think. Shame the same can't be said about my golf swing. I was so enthusiastic about my first attempt with the wood that I knocked my own golf bag over in the backswing. Ah the shame ...

This afternoon, I have caught up on last night's wonderful "Outnumbered" (surely one of the best and most natural comedies on TV) and the glitter and pizzazz of Strictly Come Dancing. Wow, what a show! Austin's tango was truly shit-hot and the best thing I've seen on the programme so far. More than equal to Cherie's rhumba of a few weeks ago. Tom was pretty damn good too with his salsa, which was neat, bright and very very sharp. And even John & Kristina's American Smooth was his best dance so far. Very endearing indeed. I must say I didn't like Rachel's rhumba though - it didn't deserve all those 10s. To my mind. Certainly not a patch on Cherie's!

In the midst of all that, I've bumbled away with the continuing adventures of Ralph and his family emeralds in Hallsfoot's Battle. He's not fully in control of their mysterious power at the moment, but then again neither am I (haven't got a fecking clue, my dears ...) so I can't really blame him. Anyway, it now stands at 56,000 words, so we're getting there. Somewhere ...

Tonight, I was thinking of going to meet some of the people at Spirited Exchanges (a group of people who struggle with church, basically) as the venue is near Guildford for the first ever time. But I do so hate meeting new people, it's a Sunday night when I should be huddled up in front of the TV and I've a busy week ahead, so really I just can't face it. I might do better in the new year when the nights are lighter, but we'll see. So my Spiritual Points are at an all time low (again), but at least I've written another poem - based on this morning's brief Bible reading. I'm stuck in Moses' temple decor and the parable of the sower at the moment. Not an obvious mix for sure:

Meditation 1

My head is filled
by gold candlesticks
and silence;

measurements; regulations;
and the wild sowing
of untested seed.

The heart’s strange pastures
bloom yellow, unaccountably striped
with sin.

And, of course, I mustn't forget this week's haiku:

My neigbour's garden:
a sea of leaves, russet-gold.
More than trees may hold.

Today's nice things:

1. Golf practice
2. Poetry
3. TV
4. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - getting into the rhythm ...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Birds, hunky firemen and song

Lord H and I have spent the day wandering around Hampton Court Park and Bushy Park. And what wonderful sections of parkland they are. We managed to see the grey phalarope that we went in search of very easily indeed, hurrah! And what a pretty and surprisingly small wader it is. Astonishingly tame too, but that appears to be the nature of phalaropes. They are the robins of the water world. So another tick for our new bird list, Other new birds and therefore new ticks to the list (gosh indeed!) included several red-crested pochards, and a veritable plethora of goldcrests. Which are delightfully small and a total pleasure to spot. We also caught sight of the usual suspects, including Egyptian geese, long-tailed tits, huge numbers of ring-necked parakeets (that now-typical south London bird) and a higher than usual amount of jays. Ooh, and plus a stonechat or two as well - which gave us great excitement when we thought it might actually be a whinchat, but 'twas not to be, alas. So nearly another new bird, but not quite.

The tiny takeaway cafe we found also does shit-hot cappucinos and freshly-grilled bacon rolls - both much needed by the time we got to them. Oh and we also enjoyed sighting the fallow deer and red deer, although we did at the end get rather too close to a rutting red deer for comfort. Of any variety. It wasn't too happy, I can tell you. But we managed to get away unscathed. Phew. Deer: lovely animals but this is so definitely not the season to stumble over one ...

On the way back, we nipped into Waitrose in Godalming for our usual Chinese, and passed the Godalming firestation which was having a car-wash extravaganza for Children in Need. As you know, I'm not a huge fan of the child, but I am a huge fan of hunky, wet firemen so I made Lord H get his car cleaned. Mmm ... Then I went home and took my car for a wash too. Ah, the soap suds, the big hoses and the straining muscles. Bliss ... Really, what more could a woman want?

Tonight we're eating early as we're out to support Robin, Gavin & Liz at the Guildford Choral Society concert. Not my favourite selection of pieces, I must admit, but it will be a pleasant end to a rather good day. I'll be sorry to miss Strictly Come Dancing, however, plus the return of the wonderful Outnumbered (good even in spite of the plethora of children in it - possibly because they're not played as icky or cute, thank the Lord) - but I've set the video so I'll just have to wait till tomorrow.

Today's nice things:

1. Birds
2. Randy deer
3. Bacon butties
4. Hunky firemen
5. Song.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - squeaky clean, almost ...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Doctor confusions, Hallsfoot and short story musings

Have been battling (sorry!) away at Hallsfoot's Battle again today, this time focusing on Ralph Tregannon and what's going on in the Lammas Lands. Well, I don't want to forget him entirely. He is key, after all. I suspect the encounter with the mountain dogs will strengthen his resolve somewhat - we'll see ... Anyway, it's another 1000 words in the proverbial bag, which brings me to 55,000 or so, so that can't be bad. After finishing the Ralph/evil dogs scene, I'm going to have to think about the Elders again. Not to mention the snow-raven's opinion so at least I'll have things to worry away at. Which is always good. And that damn bird always has an opinion or three, I can tell you.

And I've been for my post-op appointment with the nice GP and ticked off all 9 of the items on my list that I wanted to talk to him about. So that's something anyway. The confusing thing however is that he's decided to take me off the Metformin that the scary Consultant put me on as I "absolutely, must have it", so I now have to finish the few I have left and see how I go. It's all very confusing and actually rather upsetting - I'd thought the doctors had got over their inclination to keep undermining each other's treatment of me, but that is obviously not the case. Deep sigh. I do feel very pulled about in the middle of their variant diagnoses. The only slight glimmer at the end of the tunnel is that I'm due to see the original nice Consultant again at the start of January, so maybe she'll be able to make sense of it all. And get me on whatever drugs I am (or am not) supposed to be on. Again, we'll have to see ... But at least I don't feel enraged about it all this time (which is I suppose progress of a sort) - just resigned and very tired.

Anyway, after seeing the doctor, I went shopping in Godalming to try to cheer myself up, though I forgot to buy a local lottery ticket (which I was meaning to do) or look at jumpers. Lordy, but these days I have no brain, you know. Or at least no memory. Still, I bought some nice flowers for the flat instead, and made a feeble attempt to think about Christmas presents for Mother. No solutions on that one yet, I fear.

I've just finished reading Carys Davies' short story collection, Some New Ambush. It's rare that I'm deeply annoyed by a short story collection, but this one truly irritates me. Not, I hasten to add, because it's rubbish. It most certainly isn't. Davies is a fantastic writer. But there are a significant number of stories in the book which - to put it bluntly - don't have endings. They ... um ... just stop. As if she's got bored and couldn't be arsed to finish them, or as if she's gone away for a cup of tea to think about her ending and then plain forgot to do it. And, believe me, there's nothing more annoying in a story collection than an unfinished tale. To my mind, 90% of the power of a short story lies in its finish. Writers who fail to understand that are not doing themselves or the stories any justice at all. You can get away with a poor ending in a novel, as only 10% of a novel's power lies in its ending (eg Joseph Hansen could never do endings in his gay crime series, but that didn't matter as the rest of his books are always shit-hot). You can't do the same for a short story.

In Some New Ambush, tales that don't have endings include: "Waking the Princess", which just fades away and feels as if it really should be much longer; "Gingerbread Boy", for which ditto; "Rose Red", which has a ridiculously romantic ending that totally belies all the wonderful pain that came before; "Boot", where I think just another paragraph or two would have driven the point properly home; "Scouting for Boys", which does have a good end paragraph, but the few that come before that don't really help the reader to see what's going on (or at least didn't help this reader); "Historia Calamitatum Mearum", which has a similar problem to "Boot"; and "Ugly Sister", for which ditto. On the other hand, I know Davies CAN do kick-ass endings if she puts her mind to it as the following stories - and their endings - are quite simply brilliant: "Hwang" (a cliched story of an affair but very powerfully and humanely done); "Pied Piper" (a perfectly crafted story of lost children); "Homecoming 1909" (two perfect pages about how a change in fashion ruins a man's livelihood); "Metamorphisis" (a clash between hopeless love and simple friendship); "In Skokie" (again, two perfect pages, this time about a man's relationship to his car, and my favourite of the collection); and "The Visitors" (which focuses on Dickens' visit to a lunatic asylum and the ending totally, utterly makes it sing). So. It's a 4 out of 5 rating, but it could have been 5 out of 5, if only Davies had worked out all her endings! Still, I hope the next collection (and surely there will be one at some point) will clear up this problem, and then we'll have a classic short story writer on our hands, hurrah.

Today's nice things:

1. Writing more of Hallsfoot
2. Flowers
3. Thinking about short stories

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - it's all in the ending, you know ...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Books, falls and physio

Dear me, I must be getting old - I actually slipped and fell in the bath today, which is something I've never done before. And, goodness me, but my shoulder felt it - though, luckily, the pain soon wore off. And it did have its exciting side - I've never seen such a wonderful tidal wave effect so nearby. Not that I'm built like a blue whale preparing for its winter hibernation, I hasten to add. We just have a rather small bath. That's my theory anyway, and I'm sticking to it ... Anyway, no harm done, and I'll try not to repeat the experience. (Makes mental note to go easy on the bath oils in future.)

And there's good news about today - in spite of dreading the return to writing again, my day spent on Hallsfoot's Battle has actually not been too bad. I've added in a couple of extra sections focusing on what the mind-executioner is up to while Simon's in the Gathandrian Library, which I think adds tension, and I'm all set to tackle Ralph and the Lammas Lands again tomorrow. So another 1000 words done, which brings me up to 54,000, or 54,023 to be precise. Not that I'm a sad Word Count Obsessed Git or anything, of course ...

I've also decided to "just do it" and have got myself the flu jab at Tesco Pharmacy - at last! The trained pharmacist appeared to be a boy of 18 (or perhaps that's just my advancing years again?) but no ill effects so far and at least that's another thing ticked off my winter list. Now all I have to face is Christmas - arrrggghhhh!!! How I hate Christmas - and yes I know that's probably terrible for a Christian to admit (even a casual one like me), but it's true. It fills me with dread each year. So many things to get right (or wrong!) before the holiday itself - I'm constantly astonished how people get through it at all. Bah, humbug! and all that. Hey ho, and roll on, January. As they say.

This afternoon, I've had another physio session with the lovely Helen and once again everyone is pleased with my progress. Heck, I can even do my own bra strap up now - though not immediately after I get up. I have to let the arm warm up for a while before I ask it to do tricks. Only fair, I suppose. Anyway, Helen has booked another appointment for me next Tuesday and wants me to hit a few golf balls on the range this Sunday to see how things are working - makes sense to me. I can do with the practice anyway (oh, how much!) and I'd rather start back with the golf gently than plunge right into the swing of it (as it were) at once.

And there's more good news on the Thorn in the Flesh front - some kind person has actually ordered 7 copies via Gardner's, which has caused great shock and astonishment here in the home counties. Goodness me! - many thanks indeed, Kind Person, and I hope you enjoy the read sevenfold. That's more than I sell in a year, normally - of all my books. Whoever you are, you've made a struggling author very happy indeed - thank you x7.

Ooh, and I must say that I've just finished what is definitely and utterly my Book of the Year, and one which everyone must immediately rush out and buy. Linwood Barclay's No Time for Goodbye is completely and utterly BRILLIANT and a tour de force of humane crime writing. I couldn't put it down and I loved the characters. The main character, Terry, is wonderful and has some truly excellent moments, and it's a first-class mystery too. I was gripped from sentence one, and the ending is perfect and made me weep like a child over my breakfast Oatibix this morning. Go buy it - even if you don't like crime novels and you hate the thought of a (said through very gritted teeth ...) Richard & Judy recommended read (arrgghh!), go and read it. You won't regret it. And Linwood Barclay's other novels are now most definitely on my To Read & Soon Pile.

Today's nice things:

1. Creating bathroom tidal waves
2. Getting back to Hallsfoot (hello, Simon - it's been a while; good to see we're still talking)
3. Ticking flu jab off my list
4. Physio
5. Selling 7 copies of Thorn - well, gosh!
6. Reading a truly marvellous book.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - creating a wave of its own

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mooching through the day and meetings galore

Spent the morning sorting out the meetings this afternoon and the one I’ve got to do on Monday, so I am now the Meetings Queen of the office. Always good to have an aim in life, you know. Meetings are like buses – you don’t get any for weeks and then suddenly there they all are at once, cluttering up your diary and demanding attention, dammit. Hey ho. Plus I had to send the minutes out twice to everyone – no, three times, including the combined papers package – as there was an error in the first set. An error – shocking! I must be losing my touch …

I’ve also been responding to queries about the University Writers’ Group and sounding like I know something about performance poetry. Well, I know who to contact anyway – even though the Poetry Café is utterly terrifying to those of us not in the inner poetry circle (which is probably most of the known universe, in truth), the Poetry Society is still a good reference source. Though you do have to be strong or full of hope (of which I am neither) to navigate your weary way through it.

Was planning to stroll calmly round campus during my lunch hour today in order to get a glimpse of the long-tailed tit I'd seen in the morning. Speedy things, tits - never stay still long enough for identification purposes. As it were. However, I'd only just set off across the courtyard when I was taken by an overpowering urge to leap into the nearest loo. Say no more. Suffice it to report that I was back in the office ten minutes later throwing myself on the mercy of the Health Centre and begging for pills (I usually carry a briefcase of pills with me at all times - Lordy, I am indeed insane - but have left it at home this week because of the arm ...). Monique and Danielle rose to the occasion and actually speeded across campus to save me - what stars! Thank you, both.

All of which shennanigans meant that I was well enough to take the minutes of the afternoon meetings - the latter of which was hugely demanding and I was forced to try to look intelligent. Always an impossible task for me really. It was all very worthy and important, I know, but honestly it was Wednesday afternoon, I was utterly shattered and all I could think about was home, home and home.

Still, I managed to restock Gladys' birdseed on the way back to my real life (ho ho) but I didn't stop as (a) she was asleep and (b) I didn't want her to get anything from me if I'm catching. And tonight I plan to collapse like a squeezed-out sponge in front of the telly. Well, it’s where I get all my writing ideas from, so it’s research, Carruthers, research …

Today’s nice things:

1. Long-tailed tits
2. The Health Centre Angels of Mercy
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - guaranteed illness-free

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Of mice, muscles and Maloney

Woken early today by what appears to be mice in next door’s attic (which runs parallel to our bedroom). A lot of tapping and skittering anyway, so it’s either mice or a very frantic ghost. Lord H nobly got up in the darkness and tapped back to scare them away, but I think he might have achieved some kind of communication with the beasties instead. Perhaps it’s aliens? We shall have to try to break it to the downstairs neighbour somehow …

The arm and hand continue to improve – I’ve driven into the office today, with no problems. Having the car will make it so much easier to go to my physio appointment last thing this afternoon too. I think she’ll be impressed with how much more I can do since last time. Yesterday I only took one pain relief pill, though I’m sticking to the anti-inflammatories, just in case. Dammit though – it looks like I’ll have to tackle the ironing once more after all.

Meanwhile at work, the boss is unexpectedly off so all the countless things I desperately needed to ask him today will have to keep till tomorrow. And Ruth and I have done a ring-round to cancel his appointments, though it’s still possible he might be able to come in later.

This week’s heroes are: (a) the four surviving WW1 veterans (well done, them – living history indeed); (b) Carol’s umbrella (for saving her from drowning yesterday); and (c) my physiotherapist (for being a real miracle-worker). An eclectic mix, I know, but heck that’s life, eh.

And here’s a poem:


I spend all night
disconnecting myself
from the links
I’ve made in the day

It’s a slow vanishing.
Dark clouds obscure the stars,
the sun a distant memory,
and I don’t recall

the morning.
Unpeel my heart’s cool skin;
set the moorings free.

Ooh, and Ruth has already started Maloney’s Law apparently and tells me that so far it’s the best thing I’ve written. Well, gosh – thanks, Ruth! That’s cheered me greatly. Always better that way round, you know – I’d hate for my first novel to be my best (God forbid).

Today’s nice things:

1. Lord H communing with mice
2. Feeling better
3. The four veterans
4. Poetry
5. Nice comments about Maloney.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - getting better all the time ...!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Back at work, books and more on Maloney

I’m back at work today and I think my arm and hand are fairly under control – I’m even typing this with two hands though not at my usual speed. It’s proving easier than I thought it would be – and people are being very nice. The boss has even very kindly arranged back-up writing support for the meeting I’m due to minute on Wednesday, just in case my hand gives up. So that takes the pressure off. The only thing at the moment is I’ve moved my mouse to the left side, which I think is more sensible for now, but it does make my back feel more delicate – the difference in emphasis, I suppose. Lordy, but I’m a moaner indeed – and hey it’s not too bad and I’m back in the saddle, so hurrah for that!

I’ve even managed to catch up with the 51 emails that were waiting for me – heck, I’ve even gone so far as to deal with some of them, so Secretary Points indeed. And I’ve finished the first draft of the minutes I began writing up last Monday. Which the boss is hugely relieved about, as they were pretty urgent then.

I decided not to wander about anywhere at lunchtime as the weather is such rubbish, so I chewed my yummy Starbucks prawn sandwich in a meditative fashion whilst gazing blankly at the new pensions leaflet. Heck but my free time is so fulfilling. Tonight, Lord H is picking me up (as I decided against the driving option today) and then we’ll do a mini-shop together as I need someone to push the trolley. Honestly, sometimes we sound like a normal married couple, you know. Almost.

I’ve just finished reading Robert Goddard’s Name to a Face. Is it just me or are his plots getting more and more desperate?? This one’s totally idiotic and by the time I reached the part where they’re in the cellar and out of the cellar again for no apparent reason, I was just laughing. Way too many characters (lots of whose names begin with an H – soooo confusing ….) and coincidences. All that said, it’s always true that Goddard writes like a dream so you can’t help reading on. But it really isn’t one of his best. Plus he’s used the mysterious woman who vanishes at the start trick before now too. Sigh. Still, I can’t talk – I keep using the same plot devices myself, as I’m way too dim to think of anything else. Double sigh.

And there’s another review for Maloney’s Law on the Rainbow Review website. Not a great review, but certainly not as bad as the bad one of last week (hey, I’m getting quite used to these now – I must be toughening up, Carruthers …) and you can see it here. And talking of Maloney, both Ruth at work and Monique at the Health Centre have bought their copies now, so I’m hugely grateful for that. I just hope they both fall into the “we like it” camp rather than the “we can’t stand it” one, as otherwise I’ll have to come into work in disguise. Again …

Today’s nice things:

1. Managing to use my arm more
2. The prawn sandwich
3. An okay-ish Maloney review.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - we're getting there ...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

things i have learnt this week ...

... or notable things include:

1. capitals don't matter
2. lefthanded typing is possible - but slow
3. frozen shoulder should be called really painful arm, dammit
4. taxi drivers can be really kind
5. tens machines do help (thank you, rosy)
6. i love my physio - she's great
7. when the nice doctor says these pills might make you feel sick, she ain't joking
8. i have to have a book rest to avoid looking down all the time and straining my neck
9. pain makes me cry and i am not brave
10. lord h has nobly learnt the new skill of doing the bra up - even though it apparently goes against nature
11. it is heavenly when the pain goes
12. reviewers can be nice too - thank you big-time to (a) bestselling crime author lesley horton for writing to say how much she loved "maloney's law" and (b) Litlove for this review
13. i can now move my arm nearly to shoulder height but it's no golf for a while
14. weirdly the chance simply to stop is appreciated
15. i do appreciate the messages and thoughts, all - thank you
16. obviously no writing for now but i have sent off "the bones of summer" to two more independent publishers - slowly!
17. i am hooked on property programmes, sadly ...

i won't blog tomorrow but hope you're all having nice weekends


anne b
anne's website - slightly disabled but hopeful

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Apologies ...

... but I'll not be blogging for a while. Bad frozen shoulder plus neck problems. On drugs, plus physio, but rather painful.

Hope all well, and back soon - I hope ...

Love to all


Monday, November 03, 2008

New meetings, a bad shoulder and a missed opportunity

Woke up with a very painful shoulder today – I can barely raise my arm to chin level, so poor Lord H had to help me get dressed. It’s not the shoulder that was numb either – it’s the other one, so obviously I am having deep trouble up top at the moment. As it were. It feels like I’ve somehow pulled a muscle so I have taken a double dose of Nurofen Plus and put some Deep Heat cream on it and am hoping for easier days … I’m wondering – though I admit it sounds strange – if it’s because over the last couple of weeks or so I’ve been piling up the pillows when I sleep to try to ease the breathing problems. Lordy, but I sound as if I’m barely clinging to life here on the dark side. I’m lucky to be still around at all, you know! Anyway, I removed one of the pillows last night and am waiting for the healing to begin, ho ho.

This morning, I am also filled with Monday morning gloom as I have a new meeting to minute at lunchtime. And I do so hate new things. Especially new meetings. Still, at least I can comfort-eat the University sandwiches and look tearful if anyone asks me a question. Which is, in effect, my usual approach to meetings and indeed new work of any sort, so I doubt anyone will notice the difference. Hey ho.

And I’ve trogged across campus delivering brochures for our information burst talks to places I never even knew existed. Well, I do now. This afternoon, I shall endeavour to make sense of the minutes – I think they want action points only, but the last time they wanted that, when I did it they said it was too short. My response was that was because there hadn’t been any noticeable actions, which didn’t go down too well, I can tell you. I’ll try my best anyway.

I’ve now read Rupert Everett’s biography, Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins. I must admit I was expecting great things as he writes so well – but it was rather too shallow and slick for my liking. There were one or two points where he really started writing at depth and with great subtlety, but unfortunately he mustn’t have been encouraged by the editors to keep that up. I really wanted to know about the man, not about the glitter – but what you get is the glitter. And half the people mentioned I didn’t really know or care about. It was the man himself I was interested in. A missed opportunity, I feel. But if he rewrites it and lets us under the surface for more than half a page, I’d definitely give it a go again.

Tonight, I’ll visit Gladys on the way home. She wanted me to bring her some mini chocolate eggs, but I couldn’t see any in the shops so have bought a box of Mingles instead. Hopefully she won’t be too cross at my obvious failings. Of which there are many, sigh. And of course I’ll be glued to It Takes Two and Autumnwatch. Any activity where I don’t have to raise my arm is greatly appreciated. Particularly as I can now barely move it at all without having to grit my teeth, dammit!

Today’s nice things:

1. Clinging bravely to life, somehow …
2. University sandwiches (well, they’re better than meetings, anyway)
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - under the weather but essentially cute

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Chilling, writing and who I'm most definitely not!

Have spent most of the day being wonderfully lazy, hurrah! Well, I felt I deserved it after yesterday's excitements. And I probably also needed to recover from yet another disturbing dream last night - actually more of a nightmare I think. Bizarrely I and another girl (though I somehow managed to be the consciousness of both) were on a journey, but our fellow-travellers were being kidnapped by strange women dressed in black with machine guns. The girl and I were desperate to avoid this fate, but were unfortunately captured anyhow. Not entirely sure what happened to the girl, but the nasty women operated on me by removing a kidney and inserting a container full of purple liquid instead - as they wanted me to carry it over the border for them, thus avoiding the border-guards. Ye gods, what the hell is all this about??? I woke up in a right state in the middle of the night, and poor Lord H took a while to calm me down. Anyway this morning, I have no unusual scars so it looks like (a) I haven't been operated on by aliens, and (b) I still have both my kidneys. Thank the Lord for that then ...

Today, I've added another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle and am now nearly at the end of the Gathandrian Library scene. Which is a relief as I do really need to begin to move on from there before old age sets in. Still, that's now 53,000 words, so I'm slowly slowly scrambling up to the big 60,000 marker.

Talking of writing, I've been rather amused today by a reviewer who managed to give a proper old beating to Maloney's Law who could obviously Do No Right for her. The amusements came when I realised that (a) she didn't appear to like gay fiction much, or the women who dare to write it; and (b) she was distinctly snippety as it wasn't anything like Ken Bruen's writing. Well, I'm afraid (a) is simply one of the genres I write in; and (b) is a great great relief, as I absolutely hate Ken Bruen's books (dull, pompous, overly complicated, if you're asking ...). So, double phew and put out the bunting that Maloney is nothing like that and I remain the innate genius I always knew I was, tee hee! There's a huzzah factor to every bad review, after all ...

And I've finished Joseph Brandstetter's The Little Dog Laughed. Another five-star sassy treatment of the gay PI genre and a pleasure to read (much like Maloney then). I particularly enjoyed the shock ending - what on earth will Dave Brandstetter and Cecil do now?!? To be continued, however, as there are still four books in the series to go ...

Tonight, I will be glued to the results programme of Strictly Come Dancing and hoping that Jodie's utterly beautiful waltz keeps her deservedly in for another week. Go, Jodie, go, girl! You have my vote for sure.

This week's haiku (about this week's nicer dream!) is:

The end of the dream
disturbs me; I close my eyes
and dream it better.

Today's nice things:

1. Relaxing
2. Writing more of Hallsfoot
3. Knowing I'm nothing like Bruen!
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - a good read guaranteed ...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

D is for Dream and the search for the green heron

Some strange dreams last night - all of them (as Lord H kindly pointed out) having to do with the letter D. First of all I was stuck in a cave or potholing (something I'd never do in real life, I assure you!), having some kind of adventure. There was a big explosion and I was trapped underground and ... well ... died. I then fastforwarded to my funeral, where Lord H was obviously rather devastated. I didn't like that idea at all, so (in my dream) I decided to dream it again, and this time I managed to survive the explosion, and solve the mystery, and everyone was happy, hurrah. In the second dream, Lord H and I were planning to get a dog (we're not too keen on dogs, so I can't work that one out at all), and asked some friends what to do about getting it through Fireworks Night. One friend said that the best thing to do was close all the windows and doors, turn the TV on really loud and stare into the dog's eyes whilst swaying. This would make it think it was a robot and it then wouldn't be afraid of loud noises. Hmm, so that's clear then. What can it all mean???

Anyway, today, Lord H and I got up at the crack of dawn and drove down to Hythe, near Folkestone, for the simple purpose of spotting the green heron that seems to have been blown there from its usual habitat in America and has been there for the last week. I was convinced we had no chance, but bloody hell we saw it!! What an amazing bird!! And so good at posing for ten minutes on a branch about 10 feet from our noses. Utterly amazing and magical, and one of the best things that's happened all week. You can find out more about this wonderful bird here and the picture is just exactly what it looked like too.

Fresh from that triumph, we drove to Dungeness RSPB reserve and walked round the trail in the wind and driving rain. My new coat works, you'll be glad to know - and thank goodness I remembered the hand-warmers. Lord H and I both needed them. Highlights there were the 4 or 5 marsh harriers which were flying all over the reserve together - astonishing to see so many of them in one place - but one of the women there told us they'd bred there for the last two years, which would explain it. Must have been a family. We also spotted a dunnock, loads of shovellers, teal, gadwall, a (grey!) heron or two and the usual suspects. My, but it was chilly and not many people around, surprise surprise. Only sad fools like us then ... Did I say we've seen a green heron today?

Back home, I am limbering up for Strictly Come Dancing (come on, John! Come on, Jodie!) and a Chinese takeaway from Waitrose. And dreaming of herons of all colours. Lovely.

Today's nice things:

1. Seeing a green heron (did I mention that?)
2. The marsh harrier family
3. Strictly Come Dancing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - almost as good as a green heron, you know!